Monday, 30th October 2017

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Funds deadlock stops Maluti revamp

The Maluti temple conservation project, launched with much fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Dumka last October, is now on pause mode due to a funds deadlock from the state art and culture department.

By A.S.R.P. Mukesh in Ranchi
  • Published 11.09.16
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The renovated terracotta temples in Maluti

Ranchi, Sept. 10: The Maluti temple conservation project, launched with much fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Dumka last October, is now on pause mode due to a funds deadlock from the state art and culture department.

At a time chief minister Raghubar Das is claiming utmost transparency and ease of doing business on every platform in Jharkhand, officials of Delhi-based Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD), whom state government outsourced the ambitious Rs 7-crore, four-year Maluti restoration work, are claiming that bureaucratic apathy has derailed it.

S.D. Singh, ITRHD state representative, said they were compelled to stop restoration work when the state stopped releasing funds.

"In the first phase, we got Rs 1 crore, which is exhausted. We are waiting for the second instalment. So far, we restored five temples and another 11 are on cards but work is on halt now," he said.

Of the 108 terracotta temples built between 17th and 19th centuries, with inscriptions in a mix of Bengali, Prakrit and Sanskrit, and engravings from epics and pastoral life and of gods and goddesses, only 62 structures stand today, and the rest have crumbled to dust over the years in neglect, making restoration of those that exist a priority.

But, clearly unhappy with the state's attitude, ITRHD's Singh has claimed the state reneged what it had promised when the restoration MoU was signed last year.

"We were told the government would release funds soon after ITRHD spent 70 per cent of phase I funds and submitted utilisation certificates. We submitted utilisation certificates in February. But, only art and culture department can say when will it be released. We have been contacting them since June but without success," Singh said.

Contacted, state art and culture director Ashok Kumar Singh, who took charge a few months ago, could not give a satisfactory response about the project status. "Yes, the project is temporarily grounded due to fund issues. I can't say right away when it would be released but I am looking into it. The department will soon work out a way," he said without going into specifics.

Murmurs in ITRHD however are growing that the fund deadlock was due to "official displeasure" at "not been offered any cut". "Had we given 10-20 per cent cuts to bureaucrats, there would not have been any issue. We chose not to," claimed an official from the ITRHD.

But, according to the state's version, ITRHD had also done shoddy work. In May this year, apparently an alarmed state had asked Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team to inspect the quality of restoration work underway. Then, the state art and culture department stopped disbursing funds to ITRHD, choosing to wait for the ASI's formal report. But later, even as state art and culture department claimed ASI had given its go-ahead to the work suggesting a few corrective measures in June-end, the funds deadlock has continued.

Delays would mean the project would miss its deadline.

According to Singh, if the four-year project had to contend with such bottlenecks, staggered over time, it would collectively have an impact. "Even if funds are released this month, we can't work in October due to Durga Puja as Maluti residents celebrate it throughout the month. Also, we have to start preparing raw materials to start restoration work. So for all practical purposes, even if funds are immediately released, it will take at least two more months to restart work," said Singh.